ACORN TV LAUNCHES IN THE UK
ACORN TV ADDS TO HOME ENTERTAINMENT OFFERING…
SVOD SERVICE HITS 1 MILLION MARK IN THE US…
…AND ADDS TO EXPANDING AMC STREAMING ROSTER
SPRING LAUNCH PLANS MADE BEFORE VIRUS HIT…
UK LAUNCH BUILDS ON US ACHIEVEMENTS
QUEENS RULE EXCLUSIVELY, OK?
ORIGINALS AT THE HEART OF LAUNCH STRATEGY
PR AT THE HEART…
INTERNATIONAL FEEL ADDS TO HOMEGROWN HITS…
WITH MORE TO COME…
TRAILERS OF THE WEEK
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It’s here. After its hugely successful launch in the US, AMC Networks’ SVOD service Acorn TV, currently available in over 20 countries including Canada, Australia and Spain, has landed in the UK. In this special one-off edition of The Raygun, we profile the service and preview some of its offerings, as well as analysing its US launch and Acorn’s plans to market and publicise the service to UK consumers. We also caught up with Acorn International’s md Stuart Shaw whose team are managing the UK launch from lockdown.
In various forms, Acorn has long been a friend and partner in the UK home entertainment industry, specialising in taking the best TV drama into people’s homes for more than 20 years. Always seeking to remain on top of the business, it has long engaged with digital distribution and now have stepped up to launch its own already popular on-demand channel here in the UK. Additionally, to expand its unique offering, the company has, for the last five years, been investing in, co-producing and commissioning exceptional television dramas such as Agatha Raisin, London Kills and Keeping Faith, nurturing and developing British talent both in front of and behind the camera. Acorn TV aims to nestle alongside its other home entertainment activity, notably its thriving disc and digital arm, widening consumer choice and giving them, as the current home entertainment mantra states, what they want, when they want it. As Stuart Shaw explained: “Acorn TV provides another way for audiences to enjoy great television so we see the services as complementing each other as well as expanding our reach. Recently Acorn has been making shows that enjoyed their UK premieres on other TV channels before we’ve released them on DVD/EST. Now we can manage our shows through their entire life cycle.”
With more than 1 million subscribers in the US, Acorn TV has wooed viewers with a winning combination of crime, drama and comedy. And this year has seen even more American viewers flocking to the service with its British and international flavours. As Acorn Media International md Stuart Shaw put it: “Acorn TV is doing phenomenally well in the US. We surpassed 1 million paid subscribers last autumn and are achieving record setting growthinternationally for the service in 2020.” The success of Acorn TV in the US and around the world has uncovered an appetite for Acorn’s ever-growing library of quality TV programming and has also helped provide learnings for the UK launch. As Stuart Shaw noted: “There is a growing fanbase for high quality mysteries and dramas worldwide, so we’re thrilled to be able to share the very best in global television with UK viewers. We’ve cultivated a great sense of our audience and their likes, which should translate very well to UK subscribers, but we also appreciate the need to cater to them very specifically reflecting the overall television landscape here.”
Acorn TV joins the rapidly expanding AMC Networks family, with subscription video on demand services targeting different sectors such as Shudder, the horror offering that, like Acorn TV, spans different territories and is a truly international service. “We’re thrilled to be part of the AMC Networks family.” added Shaw. “Internationally, Acorn TV and the rest of AMC’s SVODs remain a key part of AMC’s future plans.”
Acorn TV’s launch comes at a time when the UK is still under lockdown, giving it an unexpected and timely boost, although this was merely a coincidence as plans had long progressed for a launch in the spring. Nonetheless as figures from analysts and researchers as well as media around the country have noted, this is a perfect time for subscription video on demand services, with streaming being an excellent source of entertainment for those isolated at home. “Our plan was always to launch in May with a social event featuring the cast and creators of our all-new series Queens of Mystery” said Stuart Shaw. “The lockdown has meant we can’t do that, but while a traditional launch event has proved impossible, the cast and crew of Queens of Mystery have been amazingly supportive, making themselves available for interviews, helping to raise the channel’s profile and giving an extra boost to the launch PR which can already be seen across much of the print media.
Gaining TV, radio and press coverage is not easy during the Coronavirus crisis, with ever-changing priorities, shifting schedules and reduced pagination, but there have already been several full-page features in nationals and magazines with more to come. Further opportunities come from Queens of Mystery guest stars such as soap queen Michelle Collinswho appears in a forthcoming episode as a singer in an outing entitled Death By Vinyl – and expect radio appearances too. Debbie Murray, who is looking after the PR at Aim Publicity said: “With the ever-changing Coronavirus situation, we’ve had to be creative in terms of where we look to achieve coverage. The talent have been very supportive in giving their time, and we’ve been working with key cast such as Julie Graham, Sarah Woodward and Siobhan Redmond, who’ve all been great.” There’s further coverage surrounding the launch too, with national newspaper news pages covering the launch itself and the nationals’ TV supplements and TV listings magazines’ on demand coverage also heralding the arrival of Acorn TV.
The UK launch of Acorn TV will build on many of the lessons learned from the US and Australia’s success stories, while the way consumers have seized upon some of the service’s specially commissioned programming has proved that Acorn is working along the right lines. “The launches will be very similar in some ways,” said Stuart Shaw. “As we did with Acorn TV elsewhere, the UK will launch a select group of curated series and grow every Monday with new additions.” He continued: “It’s extremely gratifying that some of the past year’s most successful series with US subscribers have been Acorn TV commissions like British mystery Queens of Mystery and British crime drama London Kills.”
Queens of Mystery is a key part of the launch strategy, a prime example of Acorn commissioned original programming, that gives Acorn TV its own USP and points a way forward for the service, as well as providing a hook for marketing and PR activity. Created by New Tricks and Doc Martin writer Julian Unthank, this series will be the first premiere title in the UK. It’s an Acorn TV original series, a contemporary, colourful spin on the classic whodunit tale, which follows a perennially single female detective Matilda and her three crime-writing aunts, all of whom help her solve murder mysteries in the picturesque Kent countryside. It’s underpinned by an intriguing back story – the mysterious disappearance of Mathilda’s mother. It’s a lovely, quirky and compelling programme which has already been nominated for an Emmy Award and has a second series currently in development.
The exclusivity is key for launch, as Stuart Shaw noted, saying: “Acorn Originals and exclusive premieres are at the heart of our offer, so naturally it feels right to launch the service with something really special. We’re looking to serving audiences with homegrown and international dramas as well as a whole host of favourites that they cannot stream elsewhere.” Highly targeted, heavyweight digital, social, print and TV advertising is also running to promote the service from launch.
Of course, Acorn TV is about a lot more than just new exclusives. It’s also about the vast library on offer too – let’s not forget key historic Acorn titles like complete series collections of Foyle’s War and George Gently, contemporary Agatha Christie productions, and popular family favourites like Wild at Heart which have long been at the core of Acorn’s home entertainment catalogue. Acorn TV is also aiming to expand its horizons beyond the UK. There’s a distinct international flavour to its opening slate, giving it a global feel, or as the company describes it: Britain and Beyond. Stuart Shaw explained: “We are creating a slate of exciting content from further afield. As new shows are added to the service every week, audiences will soon be enjoying television from the UK, Europe, Scandinavia, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and more.”
For Acorn, it’s all about giving consumers the best in television. And as for Acorn TV, after the UK, it aims to reach even further into other territories and expand its global reach. Acorn Media International md Stuart Shaw concluded: “We will be working flat out to commission, produce and acquire the very best TV content for our audiences to experience however they wish to enjoy it. As Acorn TV continues to grow in various countries worldwide, so we’ll continue to focus on growing our content and subscriber base globally. But right now, there’s never been a better time to subscribe right here in the UK.”
TRAILERS OF THE WEEK
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